The development of new hetero-nanostructures for multifunctional applications in cancer therapy has attracted widespread attention. In this work, we put forward a facile approach to synthesize multifunctional hetero-nanostructures of cellulose nanocrystal (CNC)-gold nanoparticle hybrids wrapped with low-toxic hydroxyl-rich polycations to integrate versatile functions for effective cancer therapy. Biocompatible CNCs with the superior rod-like morphology for high cellular uptake were employed as substrates to flexibly load spherical gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) or gold nanorods (Au NRs) through gold-thiolate bonds, producing hetero-layered nanohybrids of CNC-Au NPs or CNC-Au NRs. Profound hydroxyl-rich cationic gene carrier, CD-PGEA (comprising β-cyclodextrin cores and ethanolamine-functionalized poly(glycidyl methacrylate) arms), was then assembled onto the surface of CNC-Au nanohybrids through host-guest interaction and gold-thiolate bonds, where PEG was employed as the intermediate and spacer. The resultant CNC-Au-PGEA hetero-nanostructures exhibited excellent performances as gene carriers. Furthermore, CNC-Au NR-PGEA comprising Au NRs demonstrated favorable optical absorption properties and were validated for photoacoustic imaging and combined photothermal/gene therapy with considerable antitumor effects. The present work provided a flexible strategy for the construction of new multifunctional hetero-nanostructures with high antitumor efficacy.